Each year, health care costs for managing chronically ill patients increase as the life expectancy of Americans continues to grow. To handle this situation, many hospitals, doctors’ practices, and home care providers are turning to disease management, a system of coordinated health care interventions and communications, to improve outpatient care. By participating in daily monitoring programs, patients with congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, and other chronic conditions requiring significant self-care are facing fewer emergency situations and hospitalizations.
Cybernet Medical, a division of Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Cybernet Systems Corporation, is using the latest communications technology to augment the ways health care professionals monitor and assess patients with chronic diseases, while at the same time simplifying the patients’ interaction with technology. Cybernet’s newest commercial product for this purpose evolved from research funded by NASA, the National Institute of Mental Health, and the Advanced Research Projects Agency. The research focused on the physiological assessment of astronauts and soldiers, human performance evaluation, and human-computer interaction.
With statistics showing significant improvements in patient outcomes through closer in-home monitoring, Cybernet saw an opportunity to commercialize the physiological measurement and analysis technology. After completing its SBIR work with Johnson in 1998, Cybernet adapted the technology for its MedStar™ Disease Management Data Collection System, an affordable, widely deployable solution for improving in-home-patient chronic disease management. In July 2001, Cybernet Medical announced the general availability of the MedStar interface device and accompanying data collection server, together called the MedStar System.
The battery-powered and portable MedStar interface device collects physiological data from off-the-shelf instruments regularly used at home by chronic-disease patients with high blood pressure, diabetes, congestive heart failure, or respiratory conditions. These devices include weight scales, blood pressure cuffs, and glucose monitors. The MedStar device then securely transmits the data over a standard telephone line to the Cybernet Medical collection server, located at a hospital or a disease management company’s facility, for retrieval and analysis. The process enables a health care team to immediately note changes in a patient’s condition and make appropriate action recommendations—resulting in fewer patient interventions and emergency hospitalizations.
Using a database management system, health care professionals can access the data through the Internet in order to remotely manage their patients. Cybernet markets its own data management system, the MedStar Web Server, to retrieve digitized physiological data from a data collection device, such as Cybernet’s MedStar Data Collection Server, and uses it to populate a database. It then formats this information for display via a secure Web site, enabling physicians and disease management professionals to analyze changes in a patient’s condition. The result is improved patient outcomes and dramatically reduced costs associated with the care of the chronically ill. The MedStar Web Server is available as an addition to the MedStar System, which is also compatible with other commercial database management systems.